CSS overflow-x

The CSS overflow-x property was introduced in CSS3 for the purposes of setting the clipping behavior for the right and left edges of an element. It determines what to do when a box's contents are too big (horizontally) to fit inside.

The overflow-x property allows you to specify how the contents should be displayed in the event that it is too large for its outer container. In other words, the contents "overflow" on the "x" axis (i.e. the horizontal axis). For example, you can specify that the outer container grows horizontal scroll bars whenever the contents are too large to fit inside. Or you could specify that the contents should simply be hidden.

The overflow-x property is used for the horizontal axis (i.e. the left and right edges). To determine overflow behavior for the vertical axis (i.e. the top and bottom edges), use the overflow-y property.

Use the overflow shorthand property to set the overflow behavior for both the horizontal and vertical axes at once.

Syntax

overflow-x: visible | hidden | scroll | auto

Possible Values

visible
Specifies that the content should not be clipped. In other words, it should be displayed outside the content box.
hidden
Specifies that the content is clipped (i.e. the parts that extend beyond the content box are hidden), and no scroll bars (or other scrolling mechanism) are supplied.
scroll
Specifies that the content box should provide scroll bars (or other scrolling mechanism) regardless of whether the content is clipped or not.
auto
Specifies that the content box should provide scroll bars (or other scrolling mechanism) only when the content overflows (i.e. is too big to fit within the content box).

In addition, all CSS properties also accept the following CSS-wide keyword values as the sole component of their property value:

initial
Represents the value specified as the property's initial value.
inherit
Represents the computed value of the property on the element's parent.
unset
This value acts as either inherit or initial, depending on whether the property is inherited or not. In other words, it sets all properties to their parent value if they are inheritable or to their initial value if not inheritable.

Basic Property Information

Initial Value
visible
Applies To

The exact wording depends on the spec:

  • CSS2: Block containers.
  • CSS basic box model: Non-replaced block-level elements and non-replaced 'inline-block' elements.
  • CSS Overflow Module Level 3: Block containers, flex containers, and grid containers.
Inherited?
No
Media
Visual

Example Code

Basic CSS

overflow-x: scroll;

Working Example within an HTML Document

<!doctype html>
<title>Example</title>
<style>
.clipped {
  width: 150px;
  padding: 20px;
  background-color: gold;
  border: 5px solid orange;
  overflow-x: scroll;
}
</style>
<div class="clipped">
  And the longest place name in the world is... Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu in New Zealand!
</div>
<p>Change the value to see the difference between <code>visible</code>, <code>scroll</code>, <code>auto</code>, and <code>hidden</code>.</p>

Try it with the Online Editor

CSS Specifications

Vendor Prefixes

For maximum browser compatibility many web developers add browser-specific properties by using extensions such as -webkit- for Safari, Google Chrome, and Opera (newer versions), -ms- for Internet Explorer, -moz- for Firefox, -o- for older versions of Opera etc. As with any CSS property, if a browser doesn't support a proprietary extension, it will simply ignore it.

This practice is not recommended by the W3C, however in many cases, the only way you can test a property is to include the CSS extension that is compatible with your browser.

The major browser manufacturers generally strive to adhere to the W3C specifications, and when they support a non-prefixed property, they typically remove the prefixed version. Also, W3C advises vendors to remove their prefixes for properties that reach Candidate Recommendation status.

Many developers use Autoprefixer, which is a postprocessor for CSS. Autoprefixer automatically adds vendor prefixes to your CSS so that you don't need to. It also removes old, unnecessary prefixes from your CSS.

You can also use Autoprefixer with preprocessors such as Less and Sass.